Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sen. Grace Poe lacks residency requirement - Raymond Fortun

"That you are now trying to wiggle your way out of that declaration under oath somehow tarnishes you in my eyes because THE LEAST that I expect from you is HONESTY..
"...So now pwede na pala gumawa ng maling affidavit and later say 'oops sorry honest mistake'? That is soooo bad from a legal standpoint...
"...You do NOT change your declarations under oath as it may suit you or if it will be advantageous to you.” — Raymond Fortun

In this photo Poe holds copy of the findings of Senate committee
on public order in another matter. 

The 10-year residency rule for candidates seeking the highest offices in the land should be strictly followed because the drafters of 1987 Philippine Constitution had a specific reason for such a requirement.

High-profile lawyer Raymond Fortun made this reminder over the weekend, even as he urged Senator Grace Poe to “concede” as she would surely fail to meet the residency rule based on the certificate of candidacy she filed when she ran for senator in 2013.

"There is a reason why the Constitution requires a 10-year residency for a presidential candidate – at the least, it is to guarantee that a candidate knows what ills this country, and has a love for it enough to desire to be a catalyst for change,” said Fortun in a Facebook post that has already been liked and shared 2,500 times as of Sunday morning.

"If you really placed 'six years, six months' as of May 13, 2013, please show a love for your chosen (?) country by conceding that point and follow and obey this country's laws. Otherwise, we cannot expect that you would follow those same laws if you become president,” said Fortun, a litigation expert and former lawyer of former President Joseph Estrada.

Poe, a foundling legally adopted by movie stars Fernando Poe Jr and Susan Roces, was born and raised in the Philippines but later moved to the US to finish her undergraduate studies and eventually worked there.

She only decided to return to the Philippines after her father died in 2004. She later renounced her US citizenship so she could be appointed in the Philippines as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board in 2010.

Earlier this week, Navotas Rep. and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) interim president Toby Tiangco raised Poe’s residency issue, claiming she is prohibited by the Constitution, under Article VII, Section 2, to seek higher office due to lack of residency. Residency requirement for candidates running for president or vice president is 10 years, while that for senator is two years.

In his FB post, Fortun agreed [with Tiangco]: "Poe is, with all due respect, not qualified to run for higher office under our Constitution.”

"That you are now trying to wiggle your way out of that declaration under oath somehow tarnishes you in my eyes because THE LEAST that I expect from you is HONESTY,” he added.

He said Poe has the burden of proving she has indeed lived in the Philippines for more than 10 years before the May 2016 polls. "The onus, therefore, would be on Sen. Poe to explain how she can claim residency different from what she declared under oath,” he said.

Honest mistake?

One of the commenters in Fortun’s online post wondered how the framers of the Constitution came up with 10 years, when it does not even take that long to know “the ills of the country.”

Fortun replied: “Sir, lame as you may think it is, that is what the framers of the Constitution decided is the standard qualification for Pres/VP."

He repeatedly made clear in his post and replies that he was neither pro-Binay nor anti-Poe, but was merely sticking to the laws.

"This is not a ‘mudslinging' issue, because the point is something so basic and fundamental… Much as I don’t like to sound like the attacker. There should only be one side – the legal side,” he said.

For those defending Poe saying she might have simply committed a mistake in putting “six years and six months” on her COC, Fortun said, “that 'honest mistake' tact is clearly an afterthought.”

"I can safely assume that nobody stuck a gun to her temple to write '6 years 6 months'; meaning, that date is true and correct. So now pwede na pala gumawa ng maling affidavit and later say 'oops sorry honest mistake'? That is soooo bad from a legal standpoint,” the lawyer said.

He said Poe either lied then when she filed her COC for senator in 2012 or is lying now in case she decides to run for presidency in May next year.

Also, he said that under the law, it is not prohibited to admit committing an honest mistake. "But (yo)u do that of your own volition WITHOUT anybody pointing it out to you. You do NOT change your declarations under oath as it may suit you or if it will be advantageous to you.”

Moreover, he said  if Poe would really admit it was an honest mistake, she should have said so and corrected the wrong information “at the first opportunity” and not wait three years to do so, when critics have already raised the matter.

"So any attempt to correct the 'mistake' now is highly suspicious at the very least.”

He said it was common for people to commit mistakes when accomplishing documents, like a birth certificate. But it would be much different to commit a mistake on “something as important as a COC… done under oath for an elective post.”

"Gosh, you can even expect the candidate to frame that [COC], right?,” he added.

Fortun stressed the importance of ensuring the truthfulness of documents sworn under oath, saying that in his 27 years of law practice, sworn statements “make or break a case."

That Poe is not a lawyer would also be a “lame excuse," according to Fortun, who said the lady senator, for sure, had checked the document’s truthfulness first before her oath was administered.

Fortun also pointed out that the answers found in Poe’s COC were type-written. “It is very VERY difficult to believe that it was a ‘mistake,’” he said.

Binay’s daughter Makati Rep. Mari-len Abigail Binay on Friday appealed for an end to the word war between Poe and officials of the opposition UNA, and said the residency issue should instead be settled in court.

Fortun echoed Rep. Binay’s sentiment: “This case will definitely be decided by the courts. That is why this [Facebook] post is BOTH an appeal to reason and to emotion.”

Animus revertendi

Several legal experts have come to the defense of Poe, saying the doctrine of “animus revertendi” – or one’s intention to return to his or her domicile – applies to the Sen. Poe, saying that her intent to return to the Philippines outweighs actual residency.

They cited the 1995 Supreme Court ruling on former First Lady Imelda Marcos that allowed her to run for congresswoman of Leyte despite her long absence in the province. The SC ruled that Marcos's repeated manifestation of her intention to return there still makes her a domicile of Leyte.

Fortun and a number of legal experts and former law deans took the opposing side, insisting that the Imelda case cannot be applied to Poe’s case.

He said Imelda, for one, never acquired American citizenship, unlike Poe, and that the animus revertendi doctrine only applies when there is a question to one’s residency. In Poe’s case, the lawmaker herself pegged her residency.

"The core of the issue is one that is of her OWN making – her COC for the 2013 elections,” he said.

"The SC ruled in Imelda's favor for reasons totally distinct and unique to her. Sen. Poe cannot cite that case as precedent, even as SOME of the grounds may be applicable to her. You just simply cannot compare Sen. Grace to Imelda,” he said.

Former law deans Pacifico Agabin of UP Law and Amado Valdez of UE Law had also said the Imelda case was not applicable.

Agabin said it would be a “legal fiction” to invoke animus revertendi in Poe’s case, while Valdez – like Fortun – stressed that Marcos “never lost her domicile in the Philippines."

Integrated Bar of the Philippines national president Vicente Joyas, meanwhile, said Poe's intention to return to the Philippines "Was negated by her acquisition of US citizenship." — LBG, GMA News


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